Ethics: Immanuel Kant and Aristotle Comparison Essay by Master Researcher

Ethics: Immanuel Kant and Aristotle
A study of the ethical theories of Immanuel Kant and Aristotle.
# 36637 | 1,150 words | 6 sources | MLA | 2002 | US
Published on Oct 14, 2003 in Philosophy (Ancient Greek) , Philosophy (Ethics)

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This is a critical analysis of the ethics of Kant and Aristotle. The writer provides a definition of ethics and describes how Aristotle uses the word chiefly in its secondary meaning of character and sees it as rooted in action and in human experience. Kant, on the other hand, is shown to have adoped a revisionist definition as he avoids the moral habit-formation, which Aristotle includes. The paper posits that while Aristotle's virtues modify behavior directly, Kant's virtues modify behavior indirectly by creating moral feeling, which works to repress the temptations of the natural inclination.

The Issue

From the Paper:

"Immanuel Kant's systems of ethics and metaphysics have been ground-shaking philosophical pinnacles from which virtually all else began. Kant essentially lays down his belief in the fundamental freedom of the individual. He claims that the individual is the basis for all ethical ideas, and that freedom of the individual is a necessity to cultivate those ideas. The lawlessness of anarchy is not what he means by this; rather, he is specifically referring to the freedoms of self-government (self-action) and of the conscious obedience to the laws of the universe resulting from reason. He states that the welfare of the individual must be regarded as an ends in and of itself, and that man cannot be used inherently as a means. Because of this thinking, Kant supports a teleological view of things, in which everything or action must be analyzed based on the end goal achieved by it.
"In the Nicomachean Ethics (hereafter Ethics), Aristotle maintains that the virtues are formed by repetition as are other habits (book II, chapters 1-5). "[I]t is by doing just acts that a just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man," he explains, and without this kind of habit formation "no one would have even the prospect of being good" (1105b9-12). Further, the "mark" of a good "legislator" and "constitution" is that they: "Make the citizens good by forming habits in them" (1103b4). And in his investigation of the virtue justice, he takes as his "starting point" the ordinary meanings of a "just and an "unjust" man: the latter is "lawless," "grasping," and "unfair"; the former is "law-abiding" and "fair" (V:1129a30-34). In short, Aristotle's intention is to clarify the ordinary meaning of virtue as habit."

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